10/13/2002 12:24 AM ET
History keeping egos in check
Club has been one win from World Series twice before
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In 1979, back when the American League Championship Series was a best-of-five affair, the Angels lost to the Baltimore Orioles, three games to one.
In 1982, they won the first two games of the ALCS against Milwaukee, putting them one win from World Series. They lost the next three games and went home.
And on Oct. 12, 1986, after the ALCS went to a best-of-seven format, they won three of the first four games against Boston. They led 5-4 in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5 at home and were one strike away from the World Series when Dave Henderson hit a two-run homer off Donnie Moore.
The Angels tied it in the bottom of the inning, but the Red Sox won in 11. The series went back to Boston for Games 6 and 7, and a few days later Angels came home hard-luck losers. Again.
Now they're back in a nearly identical situation. Exactly 16 years to the day after the most devastating loss in franchise history, the Angels on Saturday pulled out one of the franchise's biggest wins to take a 3-1 lead over Minnesota in the 2002 ALCS.
One win from the World Series. Again.
None of these Angels were a part of those past failures, of course. A lot of them were in Little League. But when you play for a team that hasn't been to the World Series in 42 years of existence, that kind of history has a way of making itself known.
Particularly if you grew up in Southern California, as is the case with Kevin Appier. One of the Angels' elder statesmen at 34 years old, he'll take the mound Sunday for Anaheim's first match point.
"Of course, we're well aware of that [history]," Appier said. "We're up 3-1, but by no means do we feel comfortable."
That was the theme of the night for the Angels, who refused to look past their history -- or the Twins.
"We've still got a long way to go," said shortstop David Eckstein. "Of course you're happy to be up and have the opportunity to win the series, but we've got it in perspective. The Twins are here for a reason, and that reason is that they never give up."
Designated hitter Shawn Wooten said the Angels need only recall Saturday's ninth inning if they need a reminder of what they're up against. Down 7-0, the Twins scrapped to break up the shutout.
"We see a lot of us in them, and we know how we respond when we get down," Wooten said. "We battle when we're facing adversity, and we know that they do, too. They could have rolled over in the ninth, but they didn't. And they aren't going to roll over now."
Echoed hitting coach Mickey Hatcher: "Those guys never quit, and they aren't going to do it now. Tomorrow is the biggest game of the year for them, and they're going to bring everything they've got. We know very well that a wounded animal is the most dangerous."
Bench coach Joe Madden was the only one in an Angels uniform Saturday who was on hand for that dark day in 1986. He was here -- Anaheim Stadium sat on the same site as Edison Field -- as the organization's Double-A manager and remembers the game well.
"Oh, everything is very clear," Madden said. "That's not something anyone who was here would ever forget. And these players here know about it, too. They're very aware because nobody will let us forget."
That could change with one more win, and the Angels coaches are pounding that point home.
"These guys hear a lot about [the history], but the one thing we tell them is, 'Hey, you weren't on those teams,'" Hatcher said. "We've got our own destiny to deal with, so I don't think these guys are going to wait for some curse to come get them."
"This might sound cliché," Madden added, "but this team is very good at taking things one game at a time, and we've been very successful with that approach. So yes, there's some negative history at work, but this isn't about 1986. This is about creating our own history."
Appier would very much like to be a part of it. He's playing in the first championship series of his 13-year big-league career.
"I'm excited, but I'm not taking anything for granted," he said. "I'm going to approach it like we need three [wins] to advance."
If the Angels don't get one Sunday, it's back to the Metrodome for Games 6 and 7, where the never-say-die Twins have an impressive history of their own.
"We've got to stay away from that," said catcher Bengie Molina. "We've gotta come out here and get this thing done."
Mychael Urban is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.